Stepping onto the deck of Constitution was like walking into a forest of ropes. Hundreds of them ran up from the deck to the masts and yards above. By hauling on the right rope, deck-hands adjusted the sails and lifted heavy loads. For the heaviest lifts they used a capstan - a simple winch. But for most tasks, seamen just grabbed the rope and heaved. It was hard work, but not as hard as on under-manned merchant ships, where over-worked sailors sometimes died of exhaustion.
Listen to the Boatswain’s (BO-suns) pipe with your students in the active “Sail Drill” scene in Explore Old Ironsides, and show them the real Boatswain’s pipe. Work on board Constitution was completed by the sailors aboard, and orders came down the ranks, usually from the Captain. The Boatswain used his pipe to help reinforce orders to sailors of the work that needed to be done in order to keep the ship afloat. Get your students outside for some active game play that reinforces following directions! Try a version of "Red Light, Green Light" using a whistle (1 or 2 blows of the whistle determines stop or go) or try our versions of Simon Says, called Captain’s Coming!